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Russia: Foreign Relations

Volume 485: debated on Wednesday 17 December 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment of (a) UK-Russian relations and (b) EU-Russian relations the Government has carried out since the war in Georgia; and if he will make a statement. (242198)

Russia is important to achieving UK and EU objectives in many areas, including regional security, energy and climate change. The UK has serious concerns over Russian policy and actions in Georgia, and is supporting multilateral efforts, including through the EU, to broker solutions.

Differences remain unresolved in bilateral relations, including over the Litvinenko case and the British Council's work in Russia, on which we continue to pursue satisfactory outcomes. The Government engage with Russia in pursuit of UK interests, including through high level dialogue. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met Medvedev in the margins of the G20 summit in Washington to discuss the international financial crisis. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary met with Foreign Minister Lavrov most recently on 4 December in the margins of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe Ministerial in Helsinki.

Although the strong trade and investment relationship between Russian and the UK has been hit by the financial crisis, both the Lord Mayor of London and my noble Friend, the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Lord Mandelson have led business delegations to Russian this autumn to promote the interests of British businesses and encourage co-operation between governments on trade and investment. The Government have supported both the From Russia exhibition in London and the Turner exhibition in Moscow.

Our engagement with Russia allows us to express serious concerns about Russian policies as well as to work together with Russia where it is clearly in our interest to do so. The UK believes it is right to pursue a comprehensive and binding successor to the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement which will help the UK and EU partners to build a more stable, long-term relationship with Russia based on the rule of law. However, in order to achieve this, Russia must meet its commitments under the 12 August and 8 September ceasefire agreements in full and work constructively in the Geneva peace talks. The extent to which Russia meets these commitments will determine the pace of development of the EU-Russia relationship, which the EU will keep under close review in light of the EU-Russia Audit.